Chrystia Freeland: Kiev’s Minister of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa

On Tuesday, 10 January 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet after only 14 months in office. The most newsworthy change was the sacking of Stéphane Dion, as minister of foreign affairs, and his replacement by Chrystia Freeland, previously minister of international trade. The cabinet shuffle might not have made much news except for the shabby treatment of Dion and the naming of Freeland as his successor. Dion, a former Liberal Party leader, and MP since 1996, was given no advance notice of his sacking. «A long-time friend and colleague who has contributed greatly to public service and the country», said Trudeau, and yes that is quite true. I doubt however whether Dion still considers Trudeau to be «a friend».

«A long-time friend and colleague who has contributed greatly to public service and the country». Really?

The former prime minister, Jean Chrétien, asked Dion to enter the government after the close Québec referendum result in 1995. The federal side won by only half a percentage point. Dion became minister of intergovernmental affairs in 1996 and oversaw the legislation for the Clarity Act, which spells out the conditions under which the federal government might negotiate terms of secession with a provincial government. The law was put into place to deal with any future attempt by Québec  to secede from the Canadian Federation. Dion made his reputation as tenacious opponent of Québec separatism.

In the 2015 federal election campaign, the Liberal party proposed to reverse the hostile policy of the Conservative government toward the Russian Federation. All the better, some Canadians thought, why should we be quarrelling with a country with which we have no fundamental conflicts of interest? Why indeed, thought Dion, and after being named minister of foreign affairs, he declared that the Canadian government would attempt to re-establish more constructive relations with Russia.

Dion did not get very far with this policy. There must have been little support for it in cabinet. Even during the 2015 electoral campaign Trudeau maintained the Conservative Party’s hostile line on Russia, especially on the Ukraine. Putin is a «bully», said Trudeau, Russia was guilty of «aggression», and so on. There were several MPs in the Liberal caucus claiming Ukrainian descent and siding with the so-called Maidan putschists who overthrew the elected Ukrainian government in Kiev in February 2014. The most publically visible of these MPs was Freeland. She was named minister of international trade, and some people thought, well alright, perhaps she won’t get in Dion’s way on Russia. Whether she did or not, we do not know.

Freeland was the most publically visible of the pro-Maidan MPs in 2014

What perhaps most people may not have realised at the time was that Freeland is an outspoken Ukrainian «nationalist». She was a journalist before she entered politics, and she has often expressed her visceral hostility toward the Russian government and toward Russian president Vladimir Putin. Freeland spent some time in Moscow during the 1990s, speaks Russian apparently, and claims to love Russian literature. Otherwise she is a Russophobe and a rabid hater of Putin and of the Russia he represents. The obvious, logical conclusion to draw from Trudeau’s decision to sack Dion and put Freeland in his place, is that the prime minister has jettisoned his party’s commitment to more constructive relations with Moscow.

Tel père, tel fils does not apply to Trudeau junior who is little like his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau

No one should be surprised. It’s the usual outcome of elections in the west: vote for party A and get party B, or vote for party B and get party A. Voting is superfluous because you can’t beat the «deep state», those powerful elites of the «one percent» who control our countries whether we like it or not. Tel père, tel fils does not apply to Trudeau junior who is little like his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, a courageous, eccentric, independent minded prime minister ready to stand up for Canadian independence in so far as he could.

After the 2015 elections Trudeau junior rushed off to Washington to meet the neoliberal Barack Obama. It was a ceremonial swearing of fealty to his Hegemon—the only way to interpret the fulsome images of Trudeau’s interactions with Obama in Washington.

The prime minister must have been surprised and alarmed therefore when Obama’s chosen successor, Hillary Clinton, to the astonishment of practically everyone, lost the US presidential elections to Donald Trump. Trump declared during the electoral campaign that he hoped to get on better with the Russian Federation. It would seem an advantageous thing to do, he said. Well, yes, it would, but his position angered not only the Obama neoliberals but also neocons in his own Republican Party. Does Trudeau junior calculate that the US deep state will not permit Trump to improve US-Russian relations? Even a not so savvy  gambler might make that wager. The appointment of Freeland would therefore make no difference and would ultimately fit in with continuing US hostility toward Russia. If Trump does shift US policy, Trudeau, as an American vassal, will fall into line, though one wonders whether Freeland can.

After the 2015 elections Trudeau junior rushed off to Washington to meet the neoliberal Barack Obama

After the coup d’état in Kiev, Freeland erupted in fulsome praise of the so-called Maidan putschists, ready «to fight, be tortured and even die in defence of democracy». When Canada imposed sanctions at the behest of the US government, Moscow replied by declaring Freeland persona non grata. The new Canadian minister of foreign affairs cannot set foot in the Russian Federation.  Russians are realists who will talk to almost anyone who will talk to them.  Freeland however may be a step too far, and no wonder. She has left a trail of hate-filled and mendacious articles on Russia and President Putin. In one such article in November 2014 she put Putin in the same sentence as the Islamic State. Guilt by association and not very subtle, but Freeland never worries about subtlety when it comes to Russia. «Putin’s Kremlin seemed to be pursuing what Russians call the Pinochet model—authoritarian political rule combined with market reforms… But Russia has now degenerated into an authoritarian and increasingly autarchic kleptocracy—and one bent on war [emphasis added]». The title of Freeland’s article is «Putin’s Brittle Iron Curtain». Her image is from the post 1945 cold war; her message is that Putin’s «iron curtain» is going to fall. «If you doubt that, bear in mind that Putin does not. His aggression grows out of his appreciation of the fragility of his regime… [that is why] He is trying to build a new iron curtain…». Everything Putin does is to preserve his own personal power; it is never to serve what he perceives to be the national interests of the Russian state.

Putin’s venality and desperation have led him, according to Freeland, to snuff out democracy and freedom of the press.  In fact, elections are legitimate and the Russian print and broadcast media allow far more diversity of opinion than the western MSM or Mainstream Media. To quote my Russian colleague Dmitry Babich, «Putin's government does not prevent the [so-called] liberal press from showing its total stupidity and bias».

Freeland’s poisonous hyperbole has metastasised across the web. She considers herself one of «Ukraine’s democrats». What are we are going to do in Canada with a minister of foreign affairs who is not first and foremost a Canadian? What interests and what agenda is Freeland, the Ukrainian «democrat», going to serve? Did Trudeau junior read any of his minister’s incendiary articles?

Here are some other examples. This one is from 2011: Putin is «Russia’s sultan», as though the Russian Federation were the new Ottoman empire and «sick man of Europe». This effusion of imagery occurred after Dmitry Medvedev announced that he would stand down as president to permit Putin to run for a third term. Russia had been transformed into «a sultanistic or neo-patrimonial regime», whatever that means. «Russia's shift to sultanism is out of step with the rest of the world… And among the world's great powers—a group to which Russia is desperate to belong—only the Kremlin's ruler need say, ‘L’etat, c'est moi.’ China is certainly authoritarian, but it is a one-party state of precisely the sort Putin has failed to build».

What pseudoscientific gibberish! Freeland abandoned all restraint after the success of the US and EU backed coup d’état in Kiev. Ukrainians exercised their democratic rights, according to Freeland, by overthrowing the democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovich. They could not wait, I guess, for elections to be staged a few months later. Impatient democrats then, they became a little frisky, killing their opponents and staging false flag operations shooting down people in the streets of Kiev and blaming it on  Yanukovich. The operation to overthrow the government was backed by five billion US dollars over the long term, or so boasted Victoria Nuland, the then US undersecretary of state. You may remember that Nuland was the one who handed out sandwiches and biscuits in Kiev to street hooligans, or rather—should I say?—Freeland’s «democrats».

Some of Maidan’s supporters stage torchlight parades, redolent of those of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, in order to intimidate anyone who opposes them.

Some people noticed that the hooligans looked and acted like fascists. «Extreme nationalists» was the west’s polite terminology for them. Amongst these groups were the paramilitary Pravyi sektor and the neo-fascist Svoboda party. They’re not fascists, Freeland claims. But they wear on their clothing or militia uniforms, or as tattoos the Nazi swastika and SS insignia. They stage torchlight parades, redolent of those of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, in order to intimidate anyone who opposes them. They kill, imprison, beat up, or intimidate opposition journalists and politicians; they perpetrated massacres in Odessa, Mariupol, the Donetsk region and other places against people who dared to stand against them. Apply the duck rule: if it walks like a fascist, talks like a fascist, behaves likes a fascist, it probably is a fascist. Just «a few bad apples», they say in Washington. Stepan Bandera, the Nazi collaborator, and the so-called Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN/UPA), which fought alongside the Wehrmacht and SS during World War II, have been transformed into national icons.

In today’s Ukraine, Nazi collaborators have been transformed into national icons

One could go on and on about Freeland’s anti-Russian polemics. When the Russophone populations in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine took up arms to defend themselves against Kiev’s fascist militias, Freeland called it Russian «aggression». Any act of resistance in the Ukraine against the coup d’état in Kiev was and is illegitimate. The referendum in the Crimea is illegitimate, although Crimeans voted massively to rejoin Russia. The Minsk accords, intended to settle the Ukrainian civil war, seem to have escaped Freeland’s notice; undoubtedly, because the Kiev junta has not respected them for even a single day. The civilian population of the Donbass has been the target of relentless, daily bombardment by Kiev’s armed bravos.

Freeland’s Russophobic, anti-Putin rants have left, as she proudly admits, «a long paper trail that frequently displeased the Kremlin». She says her maternal grand-parents were victims of Stalinist persecution. In fact, it appears that they were convinced Nazi collaborators. Freeland is nothing if not consistent; she backs the neo-Nazi spiritual descendants of her grandparents. She calls herself amongst other things, «an activist Ukrainian-Canadian». Is she going to pursue the Kiev junta’s agenda in Ottawa? It sounds like it. If one is to believe her own words, she is spoiling for a fight with the Russian Federation and its president. «After nearly a decade and a half of zigzags, Putin’s Russia has chosen its path. Today it is an authoritarian state, with expansionist ambitions, that does not consider itself bound by international treaties and norms. To secure his power at home, Putin has decided to test its limits abroad. Whether it is in Ukraine, or elsewhere, one day we will have to stop him». And just how does Freeland propose «to stop» Putin? And who is the «we» who are going to do the job?

Remember the old computer axiom, «nonsense in; nonsense out»? Freeland’s views of Russia and Putin are distorted by a Ukrainian ultra-«nationalist» prism. If Canadian foreign policy toward the Russian Federation is to be based on Freeland’s mendacious distortions and misapprehensions of Russia and Putin, then Canada-Russian relations are headed to new lows. Is this the kind of hyphenated Canadian we want, with a non-Canadian agenda, running Canada’s foreign policy? «One day we’ll have to stop him», writes Freeland about Putin. What does that mean? It sounds like a threat… and puffery and dangerous nonsense. Is that the kind of inflammatory rhetoric we want, as Canadians, from our minister of foreign affairs? As a Canadian, who voted Liberal in the last election, I dare to hope not.